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Clearwater Beacon
Clearwater Utilities staff earn awards
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CLEARWATER – The Florida Water Environment Association has recognized staff of the city of Clearwater’s Public Utilities Department with two awards.

The association helps to unite Florida’s clean water professionals responsible for protecting the environment through education programs, professional development and promotion of sound public policy. The awards are as follows:

• Integrated Water Resources Award, given to Tracy Mercer, public utilities director. This award is given to a water resources professional who has set an extraordinary record in Florida of achievement in making, designing, and/or implementing water resources policy or projects at the local and regional levels.

Mercer’s holistic approach of water management exemplifies the term “integrated water resources,” according to a city press release. “Clearwater has limited options for water resources, being surrounded on all sides and below by salt water.

With limited fresh water supplies and dedication to an earnest walk to self-sufficiency in meeting demand, Mercer and her team must constructively think in new areas, yet continue to ensure reliable service throughout asset management and employing alternative solutions. A freshwater reverse-osmosis plant, a brackish water reverse-osmosis plant, and groundwater replenishment are the latest technologies Clearwater is employing in this effort.

Understanding the importance of stakeholder and policymaker education, their acceptance of necessary upgrades and improvements of aged infrastructure, and by employing conservation and alternative supply methods, Clearwater is creatively providing a sustainable water source for generations to come.

• Samuel R. Willis Award, given to Jack Sadowski, wastewater plant chief operator; Jackie Calder, wastewater treatment plant operator C; Dennis Coley, a/c technician; Ben Troutman, public utilities intern; and the late Bob Baxter, former utilities mechanic. This award is given in recognition of Samuel R. Willis, who risked his life to save another human being and in the process, sustained personal injury in November 1976.

This team assisted a coworker from impending drowning and sure death at a wastewater treatment plant. At the plant, water leaves the clarifier, overflows the weirs and into an effluent box. Then it goes through a huge pipe into an underground junction box to the screw lift. The coworker slipped on algae and fell in. Going down, his wader boots were filling with water, and he was being pulled by the force of the water into the effluent box, the release said. His coworkers caught and held him and were able to place a ladder in the clarifier as the water was pushing him down, so he could eventually climb out using the ladder.
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